Soul Train Fall 2013 Cruise

The second sailing of the Soul Train cruise left out of San Diego, CA on Oct 5, 2013, aboard Holland America’s Westerdam, sailing to Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas returning to San Diego on October 12th. I live in Florida and could have waited for the sailing in February 2014 from my state but the lineup was no less than incredible on this particular sailing. I definitely wanted to pay for the flight to California to see these particular artists. After all, I grew up on their music and to be able to watch them perform real songs and play real music with true meaning some 30 or 40 plus years later was phenomenal.

Did I want this cruise to end? Absolutely not and I’ll tell you why. From Funk to Jazz there was music everywhere. I applaud the organizers. The lineup consisted of Earth, Wind & Fire, Gladys Knight, The Bar-Kays, Jeffrey Osborne, Billy Paul, Con Funk Shun, Ohio Players, The Mary Jane Girls, Freddie Jackson, The Dazz Band, The Original Lakeside, A Taste of Honey, Jackiem Joyner, DJ Biz Markie, comedian Alonzo Bodden and party band DW3. And by the way, DW3 is HOT! I made sure I made myself available to hear them each time they played. Jackiem Joyner, jazz saxophonist, played three shows for those who wanted a little taste of jazz on the ship.

But, kicking off the trip were the Ohio Players in the main lounge that happened to set the bar high with their performance. I said DW3 is hot but the Ohio Players are still HOT even without “Fire.” I was so excited….I couldn’t wait to attend the next scheduled concert. Some shows overlapped so it was a little challenging, at times, but it all worked out in the end. If you’re a major music lover like me, you would’ve wanted to see every show too!

The Original Lakeside performed their hits while dressed in very colorful pirate costumes which were eye-catching. Wow, did those songs take me back! By the time they got to singing Fantastic Voyage, the audience was hyped! They stood on their feet and danced from the song’s beginning until the end. The next evening the Bar-Kays hit the stage and delivered a stellar performance. I loved the music and the outfits!

Con Funk Shun had two performances on the ship and I was at both. I just can’t get enough of Michael Cooper singing Love’s Train and Felton Pilate singing Straight From The Heart. They have my complete and undivided attention when they sing those songs specifically. And so you know, I wasn’t the only one really enjoying Con Funk Shun; there were many others singing along to their music. With Ron Moton on Trumpet and Felton Pilate on Trombone, the horns were tight and on point as usual.

Ah, The Dazz Band….from my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. High-energy deliverance of a string of hits had people on their feet and others chair dancing! Skip Martin’s showmanship and outgoing personality was enjoyable. And like Con Funk Shun, I saw them twice! The Mary Jane Girls sang their songs and a few covers and sounded fantastic.

Now, I stated I wanted to be at every show and I made an attempt to do that. However, given that I’m not in my twenties anymore like I think I am, I had to sleep at some point. Unfortunately, by the time Freddie Jackson performed later in the week, my body was in shut-down mode. I missed his show but got some much needed sleep! I’ll assume his shows were great in the main lounge.

I was hanging out with Skip Martin on the Lido deck and expressed to him that I couldn’t wait to see and meet Jeffrey Osborne. As we walked to get food, we saw Jeffrey Osborne then Skip introduced me. I played Jeffrey Osborne’s Stay With Me Tonight album so much when I was younger that it had a grey-ish color from repeated use! Jeffrey’s performance was outstanding. He sounds the same as he did 30+ years ago. Of course he had to sing You Should Be Mine and is also referred to as the “woo woo song.” The question of the night was “Can you woo woo woo?” With that said, he came down off the stage and entered the audience to see who was willing to sing their best “woo woo woo.” The audience found this interaction fun and entertaining. Nice touch.

Gladys Knight. Need I say more? Okay, a few details….she’s stunning, she’s timeless, she’s remarkable, she’s legendary; I could go on but you understand what I’m saying I’m sure. Her show blew me away, again. I saw her in Florida a little over a year ago and couldn’t wait to see her again on the ship. As a legendary vocalist, she didn’t miss a beat, note or anything else in her show. As a matter of fact, I don’t know if Gladys Knight has ever missed a note! What’s more, the infusion of her brother’s act within her show made it even more enjoyable. He’s energetic, he’s funny, he’s still got it, he’s legendary; again, I could go on but I know you understand. I think the best line he said was “You know, Gladys, when you left to go solo, it was hard on a Pip!” The audience busted out in laughter. I really think if his calling wasn’t to be the #1 Pip, he would have been a comedian!

A Taste of Honey featuring Janice Marie was a fabulous addition to the lineup. I must tell you though, prior to meeting her, 16 passengers thought I was Janice! I was asked for my autograph and to be in pictures. I kept telling folks, “I’m not who you think I am.” I could see the smile quickly leave their face and a perplexed look appear and followed by the question “What? You’re not Taste of Honey!?” As well, 4 people thought I was one of the Mary Jane Girls. However, there were about 6 people who actually wanted to take a picture with me, Lexi Lewis, because I’m Lexi Lewis…that was cool. I was also asked by two passengers to put my autograph in their autograph books….wow, my signature is amongst the stars in their books!

While in port at Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, Earth, Wind & Fire performed two shows. They are still amazing and they still take my breath away. Everyone enjoyed them, enough said.

Throughout the 7-day cruise, there were question and answer sessions with the artists, cooking with Gladys Knight and other various activities. Comedian Alonzo Bodden hosted a few question and answer sessions and when he used his quick wit with the artists, he had the audience laughing hysterically at various comments he made. Alonzo is definitely a funny guy.

When the artists weren’t working, it was very nice to see them interacting with the passengers. There was a mutual high level of respect, I thought, between the artists and the passengers. I deal with celebrities all the time and it warmed my heart to see the admiration and conversations taking place around the ship.

One of the highlights of the cruise, for me, was getting a surprise gift each night in my cabin on the bed! I couldn’t wait to see what the next gift was going to be. The gifts were as follows: Day 1: Soul Train duffle bag, Day 2: Soul Train water bottle, Day 3: Soul Train hat, Day 4: Soul Train speakers, Day 5: Soul Train drink coasters, and Day 6: Magazine coupled with a music CD. It was like Christmas in October!

There are a few other things I’d like to share with you. While the Holland America Westerdam was a nice ship, I wasn’t crazy about its layout. I think a ship with a more open layout would have been better, in my opinion. This cruise marked my 18th cruise I’ve taken. Regardless of the layout, it had no bearing on the amount of fun I had.

Upon my boarding the ship, my cabin mate and I found that our room was switched from Deck 8 (we paid more to be up there) to Deck 1. If the situation wasn’t resolved immediately it wasn’t going to be a pretty start for either one of us. However, Michael Lazaroff, Executive Director of ECP Cruises, was contacted and immediately came down to the main desk and addressed this issue. We never stepped foot into the Deck 1 cabin and we were given a Superior Verandah Suite within 20 minutes of boarding the ship….we were off to a great start! Now that’s great customer service! Although our bags were being delivered to the other room, it was noted that our room had been changed and within an hour our bags were delivered to our new room without incident. Kudos to the Holland America crew.

I only ate in the formal dining room two or three times. Each time, the service was too slow so I just ate on the Lido deck the rest of the time. The service on the Lido deck was great! One server made it a point to know my name and addressed me as “Ms. Lexi” every day and gave me a beautiful smile. One day she said “Ms. Lexi, there are lots of stars on this ship and I don’t know who they are BUT I know you.” That was really sweet of her!

Regarding the music, as I stated, this was a killer lineup and I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. However, I think the Funk bands should have been spread out throughout the week. The Funk bands were done and off the ship by Wednesday. As I surveyed a few folks on the ship, they also felt that the mood came down from the high-energy state that we were in once Wednesday evening hit. The entertainment was top-notch, that’s not the issue. It just seemed a little mellower from Wednesday until the end of the cruise. It would have been nice to have one of the Funk bands performing on Friday evening just to mix it up a little. As well, I think a later-in-the-week performance from DW3 would have been really nice.

Holding down the nightclub scene each night was DJ Biz Markie and Cool V. Yes, I was there every night as if I am still in my twenties (like everyone else) dancing to Old School music doing a few Old School dances…until it hurt. I guess my body quickly reminded me that I’m not 29 years old as I often claim that I am. But, the music was so good you couldn’t help but dance. There were some serious flashbacks going on in my head. I witnessed lots of folks sweating and out of breath but by golly we had a good ole time! The only thing missing was that blue or red light like we used to have at the house parties!

This was definitely a grown-folks cruise! And, if I could have stayed on and repeated the same cruise, I would have enjoy it the second time around just as much as the first time. It was a BLAST and I must say it seems as if these artists have only gotten better with time and time is definitely on their side! These artists are still making new music today. Please go see them in concert and purchase their music. Let’s keep what we know as “real music” alive for as long as we can!

On November 29, 2013, I received the Soul Train Cruise 2013 Alumni Reel. What a nice surprise! It contained the highlights of the cruise such as musician interviews, performers in action and even the patrons. Guess who I saw in the reel!? Me! I was so shocked and pleasantly surprised to see myself. The Soul Train Cruise was FIRST CLASS from the beginning of the trip until the end and after!

I want to thank the creators of the cruise – Soul Train, organizers, artists and other passengers for making this cruise experience one of the most incredible memories of my life. If you have the opportunity to go on a Soul Train cruise I encourage and urge you to do so; it’s an experience of a lifetime! The next Soul Train Cruise is in February 2014 (www.soultraincruise.com). But, I hope see you in again in 2015 Soul Train! Until then “love, peace and Soooouuul!”

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